We walk through life by faith (2 Cor 5:7), seeing the truths of eternity only darkly (1 Cor 13:12-13). We are a people of faith. We are a people of questions. Any latter-day Christians without questions are not taking their religion seriously, thinking about it, or studying it as they ought. Questions are to be expected, but doubt need not accompany them.
Unfortunately many in the church view questions with suspicion. Questions are often perceived to be a threat to orthodoxy, a threat to the one being interrogated, and a threat to the testimony of the inquisitor.
The domain of questions, however, is where the answers lie. While there may be unanswered questions, at least for now, there are no answers without questions. The great Latter-day Restoration, the flood of revealed religion, began with the question of a young boy (JSH 1:10-13).
“If we are free to delete all inconvenient data we shall certainly have no theological difficulties; but for the same reason no solutions and no progress. The very writers of the detective stories, not to mention the scientists, know better. The troublesome fact, the apparent absurdity which can’t be fitted in to any synthesis we have yet made, is precisely the one we must not ignore. Ten to one it’s in that cover the fox is lurking. There is always hope if we keep an unsolved problem fairly in view; there’s none if we pretend it’s not there.” (C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. p. 59 – emphasis is my own)
Much has been made of the apparent cognitive dissonance between religion and science. Cognitive dissonance is the crisis of the real. It is the boundaries of darkness encroaching on the realms of light and knowledge. Cognitive dissonance is our personal and intimate recognition we do not know all things (1 Nephi 11:17; Words of Mormon 1:7). Faith is the courage to say, “I do not know, and I am OK with that, for now.” Like Alma we can say, “as to this thing I do not know, but this I do know…” (Alma 7:8).
Through the power of the Holy Ghost we can all know that Jesus Christ is our personal and collective Savior, the Redeemer of our Souls, that He loves us. We can know the Book of Mormon, like the Old and New Testaments, contains the word of God and the gospel of Christ. We can know Joseph Smith was the Lord God’s prophet of the Restoration (Acts 3:19-21), and that we have a living prophet today. These are things we can all know. If we know these things, than our questions can be temporarily put up on a shelf if answers are not immediately forthcoming; not to be ignored, but to be kept at eye level and periodically taken down and dusted off.
Cognitive dissonance is the recognition we have a choice before us. Do we step into the darkness, take the leap of faith, and like Indiana Jones proceed on in our quest, or do we turn around and take a different path? Let us be believing and choose the path of faith. Faith is not knowledge; it is belief; it is hope; it is a full double armed welcoming embrace, a bear hug, of cognitive dissonance.
“What about doubts and questions? How do you find out that the gospel is true? Is it all right to have questions about the Church or its doctrine? My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is the way the Church got its start—from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question. Whenever a question arose and Joseph Smith wasn’t sure of the answer, he approached the Lord, and the results are the wonderful revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. Often the knowledge Joseph received extended far beyond the original question. That is because not only can the Lord answer the questions we ask but, even more importantly, He can give us answers to questions we should have asked. Let us listen to those answers.”
“The missionary effort of the Church is founded upon honest investigators asking heartfelt questions. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.”
“God commands us to seek answers to our questions (see James 1:5–6) and asks only that we seek “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us “by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:5).”
“Fear not; ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not! Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received. Because we see imperfectly in mortality, not everything is going to make sense right now. In fact, I should think that if everything did make sense to us, it would be evidence that it had all been made up by a mortal mind. Remember that God has said:”
“‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. …’”
“‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8–9).”
“Nevertheless, you know that one of the purposes of mortality is to become more like your Heavenly Father in your thoughts and in your ways. Viewed from this perspective, searching for answers to your questions can bring you closer to God, strengthening your testimony instead of shaking it. It’s true that “faith is not … a perfect knowledge” (Alma 32:21), but as you exercise your faith, applying gospel principles every day under any circumstances, you will taste the sweet fruits of the gospel, and by this fruit you will know of its truth (see Matthew 7:16–20; John 7:17; Alma 32:41–43)….”
“You are no ordinary beings, my beloved young friends all around the world. You are glorious and eternal. No matter your circumstances or trials in life, I urge you to remember who you are, where you came from, and where you are going—for the answers to those questions will truly provide confidence and direction for your life.”
“Your Heavenly Father lives. He knows you. He speaks to you in these latter days through prophets and apostles. President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on earth in our day. This Church is directed by the Savior Jesus Christ. I know this. He is at the head of this Church.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Reflection in the Water.” CES Fireside for Young Adults, Brigham Young University, November 1, 2009 – emphasis is my own)
We are a people of questions, answered and otherwise. A lack of questions is a sign of complacency, a sure fire indicator trouble is ahead. Questions were the catalyst for the restoration of the gospel of Christ in its completeness, the restoration of the priesthood of God, baptism, the Book of Mormon, and numerous revelations, including many sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. Questioning is what allows us to throw off the blinders of our mortal perception of reality. Questions are the path to eternity.
Many seek answers to their questions from the altars of science or the temples of scholasticism. Science and academia are religions of their own, complete with a priesthood of initiates who are inducted into the mysteries by their high priests, the PHDs, and who venerate the holy words published in the peer reviewed journals. While Hugh Nibley famously stated their vestments were the “black robes of a false priesthood,” (Nibley, Hugh. “Leaders and Managers.” BYU Speeches. Aug 19,1983.) all truth, scientific, religious, or otherwise, is encompassed in the omniscience of God. If we knew as He knows, understood as He understands, there would be no conflict between the two world views. All truth is knowledge; knowledge and understanding of things as they are, as they were, and as they will be. (D&C 93:24)
Where does that leave the questioner with the nagging and persistent unanswered query?
“Ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing.” (Mormon 9:27)
The time will come when all questions will be answered, when faith gives way to all knowledge (1 Cor 13:12-13).
“Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (D&C 50:40)
“Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.” (Moses 6:61)
That time is not yet. Question everything, but “cast about your eyes and believe.” (Alma 33:22)